Cover cropping with winter peas

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Winter peas provide and fresh and crisp addition to any salad but also prove to be an effective cold weather cover crop. Peas and other legumes fix nitrogen, especially when coupled with an inoculant, so they offer an economic way to improve soil health and quality.

Cover cropping is a well known system utilized by many modern sustainable agricultural operations but it has ancient origins as well. The book Ancient Agriculture: Roots and Applications of Sustainable Farming is a translation of a farming guide from Spain initially published in 1513 by Gabriel Alonso De Herrera. The guide mentions the use of nitrogen fixing plants grown to maintain soil health and practices such as crop rotation are referred to in much detail. Herrera’s work has influenced the course of agriculture throughout Spain and can even be seen surviving in the Indo-Hispano regions of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

The field pictured above was overgrown with an assortment of annual weeds the previous spring especially the notorious and invasive Johnson grass. Summer tillage was carried out to eliminate or at least weaken the Johnson grass rhizome and other established weeds. Late in the fall winter peas were sown in an attempt to both cover the soil and prepare it for spring planting.

After the last frost, these sections will be used to grow a diverse assortment of warm weather crops.

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First pea flowers of the season
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Cover cropping with winter peas

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